- Clean Up Your Finances
Make sure you've got your credit cards in order. You'll need a credit score above 760 or better to take advantage of a great, low interest rate. If your score is lower than 620 you may have trouble even getting an FHA loan.
- Figure Out What You Can Afford
Get pre-approved for a loan - an important step in this market. Get your paperwork together before contacting a lender (W-2, tax returns, account statements, etc.). Lenders set their own fee schedules so you'll get the best deal by shopping around to four or five types of lenders.
Choose Your 'Hood
You're not just buying a house; you're buying the neighborhood. So even if you can get a great deal on a foreclosure, make sure the whole neighborhood isn't filled with them. You want your investment to hold its value. Spend time getting to know the neighborhood - even interview neighbors - before you fall for a particular house.
- Choose a Broker
Interview at least three agents or brokers before hiring one. Ask how many transactions they've closed, what price range they work in, what type of customers they tend to work with, what technology they use. This is the biggest purchase of your life, you need a broker who's willing to hold your hand through the process.
- Read the Fine Print
Make sure you read - and understand - everything you're about to sign. You're about to sign away the next 15 to 30 years of your life, you want to understand the terms. Make sure the numbers match what you were promised. If they don't speak now or pay later.
Looking to buy in 2010? Your timing is great, but according to The Washington Post, you might want to make one (or all five) of these pre-home-buying resolutions over a glass of Champagne this New Year's Eve.